Processing of sky compass cues and wide-field motion in the central complex of the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria)
1. Polarization-sensitive neurons of the locust central complex show azimuthdependent responses to unpolarized light spots. This suggests that direct sunlight supports the sky polarization compass in this brain area. / 2. In the brain of the desert locust, neurons sensitive to the plane of celestial...
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|Summary:||1. Polarization-sensitive neurons of the locust central complex show azimuthdependent responses to unpolarized light spots. This suggests that direct sunlight supports the sky polarization compass in this brain area. / 2. In the brain of the desert locust, neurons sensitive to the plane of celestial polarization are arranged like a compass in the slices of the central complex. These neurons, in addition, code for the horizontal direction of an unpolarized light cue possibly representing the sun. We show here that horizontal directions are, in addition to E-vector orientations from dorsal direction, represented in a compass-like manner across the slices of the central complex. However, both compasses are not linked to each other but seem to interact in a cell specific nonlinear way. Our study confirms the role of the central complex in signaling heading directions signaling and shows that different cues are employed for this task. / 3. Visual cues are essential for animal navigation and spatial orientation. Many insects rely on celestial cues for spatial orientation, including the sky polarization pattern. In desert locusts neurons encoding the plane of polarized light (E-vector) are located in the central complex (CX), a group of midline-spanning neuropils. Several types of CX neuron signalling heading direction represent zenithal Evectors in a topographic manner across the slices of the CX and, likely, act as an internal sky compass. Because animals experience optic flow stimulation during flight, we asked whether progressive wide-field motion affects the responses of CX neurons to polarized light. In most neurons, progressive motion disadapted the response to the preferred E-vector (i.e. the E-vector eliciting strongest firing), whereas the response to the anti-preferred E-vector remained comparatively unaffected. This suggests context-dependent gain modulation in sky compass signalling. Three types of compass neuron were responsive to motion simulating body rotation around the yaw axis. Depending on arborization domains in the CX and rotation direction these neurons were strongly excited or inhibited. As proposed for Drosophila, they may be involved in shifting compass signal activity across the slices of the CX as the animal turns enabling it to keep track of its heading.|
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